Which drivers impressed the most during the Australian Grand Prix weekend? And who struggled?
Here’s F1 Fanatic’s verdict on the stand-out performances from the first race of the year in Melbourne.
The 25 hundredths of a second Vettel beat Valtteri Bottas by in qualifying was crucial. If he hadn’t split the Mercedes then he wouldn’t have been close enough to take advantage of Lewis Hamilton’s delay after his pit stop and win the race.
Vettel threatened to do this from the beginning of the weekend. After an MGU-K glitch on Friday morning he out-paced Bottas in the afternoon session, then served notice of his intentions by heading Saturday practice. His qualifying lap wasn’t perfect – he lost time at turns three and nine, the latter a costly snap of oversteer – but it was enough for a place on the front row.
From there he immediately showed he had the pace to attack Hamilton. The leader never got far enough ahead to feel comfortable and Mercedes were so concerned about Vettel attacking them by pitting early they arguably brought Hamilton in before they needed to, opening the door for Ferrari.
Even so the window of opportunity for Vettel to make his pit stop and get out ahead of Hamilton was a narrow one. He seized the opportunity with a rapid in-lap, despite being delayed by Lance Stroll, and once he’d kept Max Verstappen at bay was on en route to victory.
Perez took a hard-fought seventh place in a team which has slipped behind the Williams since the end of last season. He only missed a place in Q3 by a few hundredths of a second, and at the start of the race mounted a strong attack on Daniil Kvyat to take ninth.
He managed one of the race’s few overtakes by pouncing on Carlos Sainz Jnr after his pit stop. After that he withstood attacks from both Toro Rosso to hold his position to the flag.
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At two o’clock on Saturday afternoon in Melbourne Giovinazzi had done zero laps of the Albert Park circuit. Twenty-six hours later he was on the grid awaiting the start, Pascal Wehrlein having forgone his place on the grid due to injury worries.
But even disregarding the incredibly short notice involved Giovinazzi made an impressive debut. He came within a locked wheel and two-tenths of a second of humiliating Marcus Ericsson in Q1. And while he admitted his race pace was on the conservative side – GP2 having taught him tyre-nursing lessons which no longer apply in low-degradation F1 – he kept it clean and avoiding the many pitfalls which might have claimed him. He’s made a clear case for a regular race seat.
The first race of 2017 was another depressingly familiar case of maximum effort for minimal results for Alonso. Seeing him put his McLaren ahead of a Force India, a Haas and a Renault in qualifying was strangely similar to watching his giant-killing days at the wheel of a Minardi in 2001.
He then made his usual rapid getaway and when Romain Grosjean dropped out suddenly the MCL32 was running in a wholly unwarranted tenth place. Alonso would surely have finished there, but worsening floor damage put him out. What must he make of his former team’s winning start to the season?
It’s easy to knock Stroll because of the privileged path to F1 he’s enjoyed. But the time has come to judge him by the standards of any other F1 driver and by this measure he was clearly found wanting in Melbourne.
Four drivers in the field were experiencing Albert Park for the first time but Stroll was the one who really looked like it, approaching every corner with an all-too-visible tentativeness. He hit the wall at the end of final practice which left him on the back foot going into qualifying and duly lined up on the back row.
When the race began he nearly wiped out several rivals at turn one and locked his tyres so badly he was forced into the pits for a fresh set. He made some progress from then and passed the struggling Ericsson before a brake problem forced him out. At no point during the race did he look like a match for his team mate, though he did spend a lot of time in traffic.
Two offs at turn 12 during Q1 left him almost a second and a half off Grosjean and meant he failed to progress beyond Q1 while his team mate reached the top ten.
He tried too hard to make up for it at the start, clunking into the side of Marcus Ericsson in an incident which the stewards charitably blamed on a kerb. To his credit, he apologised to Ericsson afterwards.
It was telling that even in Ferrari’s moment of triumph the team’s senior management were making remarks about why only one of their cars was on the podium. While Vettel led both the Mercedes home, Raikkonen couldn’t beat either of them.
In the opening stint he dropped off the back of Bottas and was losing up to a second per lap to Vettel. According to Raikkonen he had to do a lot of fuel-saving in the race, but that seemed not to be a significant problem for his team mate. He was up to speed by the end, however, setting the race’s fastest lap as Verstappen chased after him.
By his own admission Raikkonen was scruffy in qualifying, particularly on his first run in Q3. All told he left a lot of room for improvements last weekend and has every motivation to make them as the Ferrari is now a winning proposition.
And the rest
Bottas made a decent start to life as a Mercedes driver, particularly in the race where he closed on Hamilton over the final laps. Verstappen played a decisive role in the outcome of the race but otherwise had little to do. Team mate Ricciardo had been the quicker of the two but paid a high price for his qualifying crash.
Grosjean was consistently in the top ten for Haas until his car let him down in the race. Massa passed him at the start then had a somewhat lonely run in his Williams. There was almost nothing to choose between the Toro Rosso drivers in qualifying and team orders were issued at one point in the race. They were followed home by Esteban Ocon, who took his first point on his Force India debut.
Nico Hulkenberg flirted with the top ten in practice but couldn’t quite get there in qualifying or the race. He was one of several drivers stuck behind Alonso during the latter. Team mate Jolyon Palmer’s weekend began badly with a practice crash, got worse with set-up problems during qualifying, and ended with a bizarre brake fault during the race.
While Alonso at least got to show some of his potential in the McLaren the same wasn’t true of Stoffel Vandoorne. A fuel pressure problem scuppered his qualifying run and he had to pit to power-cycle the car during the race.
Over to you
Who was your star performer in the Australian Grand Prix? Cast your vote in Driver of the Weekend:
2017 F1 season
- Stripping Verstappen of 2017 US podium was “one of the toughest decisions” – steward
- Sepang pays Haas compensation for Grosjean’s 2017 crash
- Williams revenues rose in 2017 after Bottas deal with Mercedes
- New kerbs at COTA in response to Verstappen’s corner-cutting
- Australian Grand Prix cost government £56 million last year
88 comments on “2017 Australian Grand Prix Star Performers”
Fer no.65 (@fer-no65)
28th March 2017, 12:30
Antonio Giovinazzi was just stellar. We’ve seen plenty of guys in recent years coming into F1 and making an impression already but I don’t think any of them were so inexperienced at driving an F1 car around Albert Park as Antonio was. But he was fast and never put a wheel off except that tiny, tiny mistake in qualifying that’d have left Sauber really wondering if the money Ericsson brings to the team is really worth it. To just outqualify your rookie team mate, with less than 20 laps of experience around a particular racetrack, with no F1 experience other than a few test days, is really embarrasing.
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
28th March 2017, 12:40
What else could Ericsson have done? He managed to beat him in qualifying and couldn’t proove what he was capable of in the race as he suffered damege and later retired through no fault of his own. We have no clue if Giovinazzi would have beaten him or not. While Ericsson has had poor races in th past, he’s also had a lot of good ones as well as one or 2 that were outstanding. But people just seem to forget them because they were out of the points.
28th March 2017, 12:50
Giovinazzi was also, still effectively last at the end of the race. Good quali performance though.
Christopher Rehn (@chrischrill)
28th March 2017, 12:53
@thegianthogweed Ericsson never was a one-lap specialist either although he got better in 2016 and definitely beat Nasr in both quali and race finishes over 2016. However, it’s his race speed that sometimes come to impress me. Mexico 2016 stands out as arguably his best ever drive and in my eyes one of the drives of the year all around the grid.
Ericsson-Giovinazzi would be a decent pairing, although the Italian would surely have the edge come the end of the season.
28th March 2017, 13:11
So a new driver, jumps into an F1 car, with little knowledge of the track and even less about the tyre wear, has little practice and manages to qualify within 2/10’s of a second of his team mate, runs a clean race and it’s not considered a superb performance, as the only car behind him was a broken McLaren…
28th March 2017, 15:00
Its a superb performance only because of his background and nothing else. Its not like he has proven his worth or anything like that but yes he is very promising and interesting.
Ericsson had really bad luck in Q1 and made mistakes in his Q2 run and then was shunted out of his race. It wasnt one of Ericssons best performances but saying hes being close to humiliated is just Ericsson hate and nothing else. Looking at the qualifying times from Australia there where far more “humilated” drivers on that chart.
Vandoornes drive last year was better than Giovinazzis but you never hear anyone saying Button and Alonso got humilated.
29th March 2017, 12:24
@gabriel, vandoorne had a whole weekend and much more practice in f1 cars
29th March 2017, 12:27
Also @gabriel, vandoornes performance was universally acknowledged. Please acknowledge this guy did great too And don’t seek comparisons and conflict.
29th March 2017, 14:37
@kpcart He did great, noone is saying anything else.
28th March 2017, 17:46
@fer-no65 What we should not forget is that this guy was a single seater refugee fifteen months ago. He had deputized for a banned Timo Schieder at the Moscow Raceway in 2015, and had reportedly approached Audi angling for a full time DTM drive for 2016. Quite obviously Audi refused, because he was later announced at the PREMA GP2 team.
Fifteen months ago, Giovanazzi has tighter career options than fellow F3 graduate and champion, Felix Rosenqvist, took a gamble on a new GP2 squad, found an entirely new level of performance in himself, caught Ferrari’s eye, and now he is looking at a highly likely Grand Prix career. That is an extraordinary bit of career revival! Not unlike the efforts of George Russell, who last year said the sum of his ambitions was to use his F3 credentials to procure a DTM drive; now he is a Mercedes F1 junior driver, achieved a pole position at Macau and has set up a GP3 title tilt with the dominant ART squad. That said, Giovanazzi is much, much more deserving of his career renaissance – you could argue Russell’s F3 efforts did not fully warranted his Mercedes support.
28th March 2017, 12:31
Why no Ricciardo, palmer in the strugglers?
28th March 2017, 12:49
Because Ricciardo crashing is OK because he’s a honey badger.
Fudge Kobayashi (@)
28th March 2017, 17:31
I second this. I like Ricciardo a lot but the whole best driver of 2016 accolade was a bit overstated imho. Imagine the comments on here if Lewis had done what Daniel did in qualifying, the masses would be calling for him to be sacked, calling out his lifestyle, saying Bottas will trounce him etc etc etc. Danny gets off very lightly, i’ve barely seen his mistake mentioned.
28th March 2017, 21:14
I agree, Ricciardo should be on the struggle list. Not because he is a bad driver, he drove a flawless weekend until his crash, but because he made that mistake on a crucial moment, which caused a chain reaction of issues with his car. It cost him his race at his home GP.
28th March 2017, 13:39
Palmers race problems where ‘mostly’ the cars fault…
Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)
28th March 2017, 14:18
I agree with @boli – yes, Palmer binned his car in practice but it seemed pretty clear in qualifying and the race there was something not right with his car. I don’t rate him that highly, but I don’t believe three seconds between him and Hulkenberg is representative of his performance.
28th March 2017, 17:59
You’re not alone considering the fact that Renault would have preferred to have put Sainz, Bottas, Ocon, Perez, Magnussen or Gasly in that seat. When you have to resort to your seventh choice driver (and that is assuming that Renault didn’t approach other drivers before confirming Palmer – they certainly took a rather blunderbuss approach to the driver market), you know that the driver in question is no Fernando Alonso. Poor Jolyon – he’s a thoroughly likable chap – but there is nothing about his career to date that doesn’t leave me with the impression that he is completely out of his depth.
29th March 2017, 5:13
Agree – got a 1 year seat…PAL is gone next season unless manor returns or a miracle happens for him – beating HUL would be a start…
29th March 2017, 5:26
Why was MAG in the struglers corner after this weekend:
-fp1,2,3 ruined by troubles with the car
-qualify used as setup and lap practice
-starting on Harder tyres making it hard to make a quick start and gave a understeer in the fatal moment with ERI who was running on softer tyres
-having a suspension error and puncture gave him a dnf
Any positive about him:
-Got the 7. Fastest lap time in the race seconds faster than GRO
-Showed better first sectors than GRO in qualify before getting in the dirt..
He will rise…
28th March 2017, 21:09
Because Palmer is English.
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
28th March 2017, 12:33
I actually thought that one of Perez’s overtake was a little clumsy. If I am correct, he clipped a tiny bit of body work off when he overtook one of the Toro Rosso’s. I can’t remember if it was Sainz or Kvyat.
28th March 2017, 14:08
He did a stellar job mate!! What are you complaining about. Irony of life that. The one Racer I would drop with confidence to compete with F1 men of the 70’s and 80’s gets the feminine livery.
28th March 2017, 14:53
It was brilliantly aggressive imo, the kind of overtakes we want to be seeing, and the kind of move he needed to make to actually make the move with these cars. Yes he did clip the Toro Rosso but that aggressive turn in was great to watch.
28th March 2017, 15:51
28th March 2017, 17:31
It was pretty ballsy, he turned into t3 like they weren’t there. I think DC commented that he must have been angry at him for some reason and that’s the impression I got too.
Fab F1 (@fabf1)
29th March 2017, 1:20
I think I also thought the same way, but in the onboard it looks like he was miles ahead and Sainz could have backed off..
28th March 2017, 12:48
‘Verstappen played a decisive role in the outcome of the race but otherwise had little to do. Team mate Ricciardo had been the quicker of the two but paid a high price for his qualifying crash.’
You mean those few hundres in Q1 and Q2? Does that really merit a mention here? Sounds like pandering.
28th March 2017, 12:51
Quicker is quicker ;)
28th March 2017, 13:36
I know right, at the moment Ricciardo crashed even Horner said that Verstappen was faster then Raikkonen. Why do you think Ricciardo was pushing so hard?
28th March 2017, 13:44
@hahostolze, I know you Dutch love Verstappen. But some of your comments seem quite myopic.
IMO VER had a great race (defending against HAM, fastest laps & reeling in RAI until his brakes played up), but he was not as impressive on Friday or Saturday.
28th March 2017, 13:47
My nationality is irrelevant. Verstappen is also not the driver i support. And I never said Verstappen had a good, let alone great, race or weekend. But to include the fact Ricciardo was infinitesimally faster during the meaningless sessions as a stick to beat Verstappen with, when Ricciardo crashed trying to match Verstappen’s pace, yeah. that raises my eyebrows.
28th March 2017, 14:28
Matching VER’s pace when driving in front of him :p
PS nationality, no worries – myopic comments, do worry.
28th March 2017, 16:27
Your comments come across as pretty myopic to me. So please start worrying…….
28th March 2017, 21:02
Not that I need to, because @murph beat me to it, but the myopic view in my comment seems to be pretty objective compared to what you’re accusing me of. Just to get to the simple, objective facts, since you desire to stray into the subjective. Yes, Ricciardo was faster, but my nothing margins. Verstappen missed (by his own fault, granted) parts of FP2 and FP3, so that difference is completely irrelevant. Q1 and Q2 have never been relevant signs for overall pace. Nobody has ever claimed them to be, and I think you will find an interesting statistical deviance from faster in those sessions (between teammates) and faster in Q3. Regardless, Ricciardo crashed in Q3. Because he felt the need to push to a level? I don’t know, nor will anyone here. But it seems darn presumptuous of us not to consider the most likely mistake, which is Ricciardo pushing a slightly uncompetitive car to get ahead of his teammate? He failed at that, he crashed and ended P10. Now, on any F1 website, this would put Ricciardo firmly in the losers column. On F1Fanatic it puts Ricciardo in the position of being mentioned amongst ‘the rest’ as being faster than his teammate in irrelevant sessions, when his teammate did a decent rate and Ricciardo crashed in the most crucial of sessions. Now, as for myopia, reading the above statement, the myopia is mine? Or yours, @f1-liners? I’m not sure but I’m compelled to say the latter.
29th March 2017, 9:09
There’s nothing wrong with Keith’s factual statement “Ricciardo had been the quicker of the two but paid a high price for his qualifying crash”.
And don’t be upset when you get feedback like “some of your comments seem quite myopic”. I’m sure some of mine are as well.
I’m a fan of Verstappen(‘s racing); which at times tint my prescription glasses ‘rose’.
I was not even trying to attack you. My comment to you reflects my impression (‘seem’) that in many instances (‘some’) when I read a comment by @hahostolze it’s another praise for Verstappen or the opposite for a competitor.
Many of your comments are really good, but as a fellow F1Fanatic I’d prefer to see them a bit more ‘weighted’.
28th March 2017, 13:52
Fully agree that I disagree with the statement that Ricci was quicker, in fact in that lap in Q3 where Ricci slid of the track VER was underway quicker then Ricci up to that point. I also thought VER (although in no mans land effectively) drove great, He had a great start, was patient enough when Kimi pushed him to the outside of turn one to just take that (and not risk a crash) thus not consolidating/making a position gain. Then kept going long enough on his Ultrasofts to do a one stopper to SuperSofts (the only driver on track who “risked” that) and managed them to close up the 14 second gap to Kimi (although braking problems forced him to retire any overtake attempt even before getting close enough) and Kimi would surely have been able to beat him off (Kimi didn’t seem to push all weekend long, except for that one lap). Max was pushing the entire race, you could see him on the knife’s edge many a turn. Even though it was worth “nothing” this time around I applaud him for doing so.
28th March 2017, 14:55
@hahostolze Ric was quicker in all the practice sessions, and in Q1 and Q2, so I’d say Keith’s analysis is justified, Ricciardo had been the quicker driver all weekend.
28th March 2017, 15:49
VER was still way off balance with his car and was more searching for better balance than setting pace..
28th March 2017, 15:53
Oh he had also issues with the car in every practice session.
Dim sim (@dimsim)
29th March 2017, 10:10
28th March 2017, 18:17
Hmm … in Q1 VER was actual faster than RIC. From the official F1 site (https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2017/races/959/australia/qualifying.html):
In Q2 RIC was faster. According to Horner, in Q3 VER was 0.2 seconds faster up till the moment RIC spun.
Robi the robot
28th March 2017, 17:20
Funny in a way that Ric also failed under pressure of his home circuit, like Verstappen disappointed so many fans in Spa, which I was one of.
Tip: go to see the race of your idol in another country!
28th March 2017, 19:15
It’s really biased comment, FP is not about setting fast times it’s about setting the car up for raceconditions.
RBR do have quite some issues in that department, up to qualifuing Verstappen really didn’t have a good functional practise, it was in fact a very troubled pratice.
In qualifying though it is about setting some good times on the clock, Q1 and Q2 is only about setting a safe time.
Verstappen set the faster time in Q1 and Q3, while Q2 was only off by a very small margin on used tyres for Verstappen.
Ricciardo on the other hand was on fresh tyres in Q2, going into Q3 Verstappen was faster, even before Ricciardo crashed.
In the actuall race Ricciardo wasn’t faster one single lap.
I can’t see how Ricciardo was on top anywhere over the weekend, except if Free Practice count as a race….which it doesn’t.
Guybrush Threepwood (@guybrushthreepwood)
28th March 2017, 20:16
People seem to forget or not know that:
A) Verstappen also had an off in practice which damaged his car, and
B) on just about every quick lap, Ricciardo was making up a lot of time in the final sector – possibly nursing his tyres during the first two. So while Verstappen slightly up over the first 2 sectors we don’t know what lap time Ricciardo would have done and whether he would have made up the 1 – 1.5 tenths in the final sector as he had over the rest of the weekend.
29th March 2017, 16:59
Then again, Ricciardo was never faster when it mattered, being slower makes you being slower and there where very little excuses this time
Dim sim (@dimsim)
29th March 2017, 10:11
28th March 2017, 13:04
Stroll has to be careful, he might lose the rookie of the year award to Giovanazzi
OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
28th March 2017, 14:12
@johnmilk if I were Claire Williams I would try to find a way to get Lance a “third driver seat” and hire Giovinazzi ASAP. Come on, if this kid keeps destroying cars, even Maldonado would look as a safe pair of hands.
28th March 2017, 15:03
I think its pretty clear Williams aint after good drivers this season.
28th March 2017, 16:58
@omarr-pepper he has contract with ferrari iirc. Haas would be a good place for next year (I see sauber going for honda engines).
Williams won’t ditch Stroll until the end of the year. And when they do, probably that seat has Wherlein name on it? And they still have Massa to replace.
Why am I talking about the silly season already?
28th March 2017, 18:07
@johnmilk What makes you think that? They’ve used Ferrari engines in 16 of the last 20 years and they’ve also licensed a number of components, most notably the Petronas gearboxes.
The only way I can think of Honda putting their engine in another team’s car is if they’d become part-owners. Of the current teams I can only see Sauber and Force India as privateers with money shortages AND contractually free to pursue the aforementioned option. Back when BMW bought into Sauber they had a technology advantage, nowadays they don’t even have a simulator.
I really like the team, and I wished there were more privateers like them, but the situation is terrible weak for most non-manufacturer teams at the moment. I can totally understand the Williams dealings, they were the biggest winners from the Rosberg retirement.
28th March 2017, 18:20
@faulty it is pure speculation on my part, should have mentioned that.
I have a feeling that with the struggles that the team has to endure due to financial constraints, allied with the need for Honda to supply more teams in order to improve. If they manage to strike a deal, where Sauber has the engines for free or for a fraction of the price of the year old ferraris, I can see how tempting that could be for the team. I’m also assuming that at the end of the year Honda should have at least caught up with the year old Ferraris, especially because they won’t have any updates
If I’m not mistaken Hasagawa also mentioned it somewhere
28th March 2017, 17:45
How can Claire possibly make Stroll a 3rd driver when you could see his dad leave the pit area immediately after his FP3 crash, to go buy him a new car and a new engine.
28th March 2017, 13:05
I like this format. I would say Grosjean had a great week end as far as performance is concerned but well, nobody out of place really.
Good read. Hope the strugglers pick the pace up.
28th March 2017, 13:09
I think Massa deserved to be in the “stars” if I’m honest. He had little running during the free practices, there was no real indication that in fact the Williams jumped the Force India before the AUS GP, and it seemed like he was in control throughout the weekend despite the problems that the team encountered.
I understand there wasn’t a lot of therms of comparison, but there wasn’t anything else that he could have done either.
28th March 2017, 13:53
@johnmilk Have to agree with that. Being best of the rest behind the drivers from the big 3 teams is a good achievement, particularly as nearly everyone (including myself) was writing him off over the winter. He drove a cracker and long may it continue!
28th March 2017, 15:35
@johnmilk if you count that Felipe,despite not running the ultra softs,managed to outqualify both STR by fractions, 0.100,he deserved to be at the stars!!!
28th March 2017, 16:52
@geemac @miltosgreekfan the thing is, did any of you saw him in the broadcast? Because I don’t recall catching a glimpse of his race apart from the start, not even the pitstop which was the fastest (williams have really improves in this area). And if the viewers don’t see or don’t follow the race with live timing for example they simply don’t vote.
28th March 2017, 18:22
I don’t remember seeing any Williams other than the one of Stroll… I don’t recall seeing much of Bottas, Verstappen or Raikkonen for that matter either.
28th March 2017, 18:40
@johnmilk Τhey only showed Felipe’s Q2 lap onboard(from the end of sector 2),when he & Perez fought for track position & his pitstop exit :/ With those in mind,i think you are right,Felipe was ”ignored” because of that.
28th March 2017, 21:10